Nigel Hollis of Media Post wrote a succinct overview of in-store digital screens which touches nicely on a couple main considerations for the future of this industry.
Hollis has stated well known facts within the industry such as, "The Wal-Mart TV Network already rivals broadcast networks in terms of weekly reach, and market research firm Frost & Sullivan says that by 2011, 90% of retailers will have in-store digital screens." He also discusses the tons of variables that need to be taken into account in order for digital screens to be successful while focusing his attention on the duration of the ads in relation to their effectiveness, noting that "someone in the market for an HDTV screen who is unsure of the benefits of plasma versus LCD may appreciate a five-minute video on the topic. But someone in the grocery section of the local supermarket is unlikely to devote that amount of time to a video."
This is the perfect kind of article to send to people unfamiliar with the industry, because it touches upon key ideas without delving too deep. But considering how many of today's networks don't seem to reflect Hollis's insights, I think it should be recommended reading for everyone in the industry. If you don't think you can spare another two minutes, then at least read the following paragraph:
Despite its scale, in-store advertising has had only patchy success to date. In the U.K., the major grocery chain Tesco endured three years of lackluster results before figuring out what really drives in-store success: brevity. While online advertisers debate whether a pre-roll of 15 seconds is too long, Tesco's marketing partner Dunnhumby recommends five seconds for screens placed in the main shopping aisles, because the power of these "alerts" rests not in their creativity but in their proximity to purchase. The alerts reported to be most effective are those for price-off events and new or seasonal items. (emphasis mine)
Ad length on digital screens will always be an issue, and Hollis is dead on in his assertion that duration depends largely on the type of product being sold. But the one key variable that he neglects to mention, which will come into play more and more as these ads become standard, is the idea of audience acceptance. Meaning, can advertisers successfully integrate the screens into places they didn't normally exist without a backlash? The best ad content in the world won't count for anything if it doesn't take into account what people are typically doing inside of stores, namely shopping. If shoppers are distracted and annoyed by the screens, they'll not only be a total waste of money but they could even cause potential buyers to leave the store before making a purchase.
There is so much "digital signage 101" content already on the net that it's surprising to come across an article that can still find something new to say (and having said that, I think WireSpring's digital signage page is still one of the best). One thing that I'd really like to see is more feedback from non-industry readers as they learn about our field and its current developments. Opening up a dialogue with people not already intimately familiar with digital signage at an early stage in their education will yield new perspectives, especially from parties with a vested interest, like retailers or advertisers. And in fact, we could probably learn even more by spending more time with average, everyday shoppers. After all... the biggest, most highly paid media experts in the world can weigh in with their opinions, but if the Average Joe isn't connecting with digital signs as a regular part of his shopping experience then it's still all for naught.
Tags: Tesco TV, digital signage, retail media